Text: (from LifeStyle Magazine February 2011 issue) Nels Frye, Renee Liu, Sylvia Song, Juli Zha, Eva Liu, and Jeffrey Ying
How China jumps from manufacturer to innovator preoccupies everyone from provincial officials to hipsters stalking 798. In our field, many ask when mainland China will give birth to its own luxury brands with buyers in Paris, New York, and Tokyo. There are some promising local players, but the flow in luxury fashion, cars, timepieces, and wines remains overwhelmingly from West to East.
The exception is one area in which China does have serious brands: contemporary art. Xu Bing, Zhang Xiaogang, Yue Minjun and others fetch top prices at auction and gain critical acclaim to match. The entire scene has long been viewed as one of the most creatively vibrant in the world.
Foreign luxury brands are astutely seizing upon this area in which China is a creative superpower hoping to gain global buzz, legitimacy in the eyes of Chinese buyers, and the cultural legitimacy that comes from association with art.
Collaborations between luxury brands and artists have occurred at least since Fauvist Raoul Dufy created fabrics for Paris designer Paul Poirot in 1909. The most artist-loving fashion designer was probably Elsa Schiaparelli, the Italian counterpart to Coco Chanel, who commissioned Alberto Giacometti, Jean Cocteau and, most famously, Salvatore Dali to design dresses and other pieces for her collections. More recently, Louis Vuitton invited Takashi Murakami to design those playful, now iconic, bags and other accessories.
In China, the first high-glamour union between art and fashion was shown at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing in 2008. Dior invited 22 Chinese artists to reinterpret the brand’s heritage with fruits including a Lady Dior bag-inspired giant bag sculpture using fluorescent light tubes by Li Songsong and a portrait of John Galliano by Zhang Dali.
The last two years have witnessed a proliferation of artists designing limited-edition series of company’s products, creating special packaging and redesigning shops for major foreign luxury brands. With such unions as Yue Minjun x Swatch and Ai Weiwei x Comme des Garçons, the effect for brands seems to be an association with big names. Other projects like Lu Hao x Ferrari, Lacoste x Li Xiaofeng, and Absolut x Gao Yu seem connect the brands to Chinese tradition. The films by Yang Fudong for Prada, used in magazine advertisements throughout the world, inject a contemporary Chinese, though clearly 1930s Shanghai-tinged, element into the language of international glamour.
Though the purpose may be just as commercial, these collaborations with artists are more intellectually and spiritually satisfying than the unions with luxury’s usual partner, celebrities, long ignored by all thinking people. The next step might be for Chinese brands to pair up with native or foreign artists.
Absolut x Gao Yu
In a project that represents the adaptability and innovativeness of the Monkey King, the current generation of young Chinese, and the Swedish vodka brand, pop artist Gao Yu designed bottle art for Absolut’s latest limited edition, Absolut 72 Bian. Released in China this August, the 350,000 bottles of Absolut 72 Bian contain the same clear spirit as the standard blue label but the artwork is based on Sun Wukong, known to Westerners as the Monkey King, who transforms 72 times in the course of 16th Century novel Journey to the West. The clever and daring monkey, likely the most recognizable figure from Chinese folk culture for people now in their 20s and 30s, represents “innovation through change” according to Gao Yu. Other spirit brands like Chivas Regal and Cointreau have also created youth-focused limited editions just for Asia, but none has so well captured notions of change, innovation, and adaptability that are most relevant to youth in China today.
Pop artist Gao Yu, born in 1981, likes his Absolut straight or in a martini with olives. Born in Guizhou, Gao Yu’s work has been influence by modern pop culture and cartoons but also Chinese traditions and fairy tales. Gao Yu himself, when asked what he most enjoys in life, answered that it was “drinking with my friends. And I mean it.”
Ferragamo x Xue Song
For Salvatore Ferragamo, the venerable Italian leather brand, Xue Song has designed a special edition collection consisting of two day bags, small leathers and a t-shirt. They will all feature Xue Song’s painting of tigers symbolizing luck and bravery.
Xue Song is an artist known for incorporating traditional Chinese ele- ments such as calligraphy and ink paintings in modern abstract ways. With a technical background rooted in painting, Xue Song may be most known for his Political Pop collages.
Ferarri x Lu Hao
Certainly it should not be surprising when Ferrari asked him to work on a model 599 GTB Fiorano for a special China edition. Finished in a mock crackle glaze paint inspired by Song Dynasty porcelain, the Ferrari has also been customized in the interior where such things like the igni- tion button have been replaced with a carved jade one. The car was auctioned off at a charity dinner in Beijing.
Lu Hao is known for being elaborate. His art works include a number of complex installations and large-scale items that deal with issues of scale, form and the relationships of a rapidly evolving China.
Lacoste x Li Xiaofeng
Perhaps the most attention-grabbing and potentially historically significant of the works created by Chinese artists for foreign brands, the two Porcelain Polo are the most valuable Lacoste polos made to date. Amidst the countless details on the porcelain polo, central are the pheonixs and crocodiles that in this case symbolize the meeting between Chinese tradition and a Western corporation, according to the artist. In addition to the art pieces, Li Xiaofeng cooperated with Lacoste on designing a limited edition of cotton polos for the 2011 Holiday Series of the brand. These use the pattern of cracked porcelain and a motif of smiling, chubby, babies and flowers that represent youthful exuberance.
Undeniably fresh but recognizably archeological, the “fashion items” made by Hubei-born, Beijing-based, artist Li Xiaofeng stylishly celebrate Chinese tradition and have captured the imaginations in Beijing and beyond. The garments are formed with porcelain pot shards from the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties that are sewn together over a leather canvas.
Louis Vuitton x Zhou Tiehai
In 2007, the third Louis Vuitton exclusive agency opened in the financial shopping center in Beijing, featured by the design window developed by Zhou. This was the first cooperation between LV and Chinese artist. Among the monogram pattern in the gold background of the design window, there were his two paintings named My Picture Must Use the Louis Vuitton Bag and And Then Again, Here Came Mr. Gurierec To China. More than 10 years ago, Chinese artist didn’t get too much attention from western countries, attracted by the long brand history of LV, Zhou came up with the idea to paint the two paintings, conveying the feeling of appreciation between art and luxury. Many years later, Chinese artists are under the spotlight, even popular in the market. Undoubtedly, this collaboration is a win-win strategy. As Zhou said:” Luxury products are also arts, why not?”
Zhou Tiehai is one of China’s leading conceptual artists, lives and works in Shanghai. Zhou has exhibited internationally at acclaimed institutions such as The Whitney Museum of American Art, Deichtorhallen, Kunsthal, Shanghai Art Museum,etc.
Mouton Rothchild x Xu Lei
Showcasing just how important the Chinese wine market is when it comes to Bordeaux, Chateau Mouton Rothschild has chosen Chinese painter Xu Lei as the artist to create the wine label for the 2008 vintage. His label is an ink drawing with the Mouton symbol, a ram standing between two halves of the moon covered with vines and grapes. The label represents wine as a bridge between two hemispheres. The choice of a Chinese artist has driven up the price of the 2008 vintage. Decanter reports that prices went up 20% overnight on the back of the announcement, and the wine is currently trading at around £10,000 per case. The bottle also bears the Chinese symbol for the figure eight, a symbol that is considered to be auspicious.
The Mouton Rothschild Artists label has featured a variety of artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, Lucien Freud and Prince Charles. Check out some examples in the gallery below.
Xu is artistic director of Today Art Museum in Beijing.
Prada x Yang Fudong
Therefore, it is perfectly appropriate that Prada has collaborated with Yang Fudong on their recent advertising campaign in the form of a short film. Shot in a fake Shanghai of the 1920s, the film combines the glossiness of a high-fashion spread with the surrealism of an arthouse film: models mill about in an atmospheric environment while wearing the latest from the Prada spring collection.
Known as one of the leading Chi- nese filmmakers in the independent scene, Yang Fudong–like any good indie director–is particularly fond of wistful black and white imagery and lots of philosophical moodiness.
Swatch x Yue Minjun
The connection of art and Swatch is nothing new and Swatch has collaborated with Yue Minjun to have some of his paint- ings printed on the dials of their iconic plastic watches.
Yue Minjun may just be the most fa- mous contemporary Chinese artist now. When his painting, “Execution” sold at Sotheby’s in 2007 for 5.9 million USD, he became the most expensive contemporary Chinese painter to sell at auction up till that date. With his signature style of depicting himself laughing hysterically, Yue Minjun is on the leading edge of the new Chinese art.
Upon seeing Zhang Qikai’s most recent Panda series of paintings, Titoni’s CEO Daniel Schluep was immediately convinced that there should be a collaboration with Titoni for a limited edition watch. Featuring one of Zhang Qikai’s pandas on the dial, the Titoni watch is the first in a series of Artist edition watches designed in collaboration with various international artists. Along with showcasing artistic talent, this particular collaboration also seeks to symbolize the growing friendship between Switzerland and China. Released in a limited edition of 250, the Titoni Zhang Qikai edition is also an officially certified chronometer (COSC).
As one of the leading contemporary Chinese artists, Zhang Qikai has exhibited internationally including in the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan. His paintings tend to deal with the passage of time, a notion that is not unfamiliar territory for Swiss watchmakers like Titoni.
Text: (from LifeStyle Magazine February 2011 issue) Nels Frye, Renee Liu, Sylvia Song, Juli Zha, Eva Liu, and Jeffrey Ying
追溯奢侈品牌和艺术家的合作的历史，最早应该是野兽派风格的杜菲为巴黎设计师Paul Poirot设计织物；而Elsa Schiaparelli，这位意大利版的Coco Chanel，可能称得上最受艺术家们青睐的时装设计师，她就曾邀请Alberto Giacometti、Jean Cocteau和Salvatore Dali为她的系列设计时装等；再近一点，则是Louis Vuitton和日本设计师村上隆在手袋和其它配饰方面的合作。
2008年，艺术和时尚之间首次魅力合作在北京尤伦斯当代艺术中心展出。Dior邀请到22位中国艺术家重新诠释其品牌历史：李松松以Lady Dior手袋为原型，用荧光灯管做成一个巨大的手袋雕塑；以及张大力创作的John Galliano肖像画。
这两年，越来越多的艺术家为奢侈品品牌设计限量系列、包装，或是店铺。比如岳敏君和Swatch、艾未未和Comme des Garçons之间的合作，品牌因此而更为知名；其它则有卢昊和法拉利、李晓峰和Lacoste、高瑀和Absolut，品牌的产品也因此更具中国特色。而杨福东为Prada拍摄的广告大片，则将旧上海的感觉揉入其中。
绝对伏特加品牌 x 高瑀
2010年绝对伏特加携手艺术家高瑀，首次推出专为中国定制的绝对伏特加中国限量版“72变” (Absolut 72 Bian), 并邀中国时尚摄影领军人物陈曼创作了一系列前卫的平面作品。高瑀以中国元素而生的设计概念完美地契合了绝对伏特加的“变化”主题，这款中国限量版“72 变”的灵感源自齐天大圣孙悟空，其72 般变化的能耐正是创新特质的极致表现。点睛之笔更在于中国红的 “ABSOLUT” 和 “72变” 字样，这使该款限量装充满了浓郁的当代中国味。而对于高瑀本人，最喜欢伏特加、Martini配橄榄或者单独喝。
萨尔瓦托勒•菲拉格慕 x 薛松
法拉利 x 卢昊
Lacoste x 李晓峰
LV x 周铁海
木桐•罗斯柴尔德酒庄 x 徐累
法国五大名庄之一的木桐•罗斯柴尔德酒庄（Chateau Mouton Rothschild），于2010年选定中国艺术家徐累作为将要推出的2008年份木桐酒标人选，这是继毕加索、达利、米罗、康定斯基、安迪•沃霍尔、培根、巴尔蒂斯等大师之后，又一别具一格的酒标创意。历经半年的时间，菲力普•罗斯柴尔德女男爵从众多拥有国际影响力的中国当代艺术家中，选择徐累成为最佳人选。酒标图案的主要部分由木桐酒庄的象征，一只白羊所构成，两侧是月亮的东西两个半球，并且在上面画有葡萄串。关于这幅酒标的寓意，主要是“为了突出我们的美酒是联系人类与其文明的桥梁，同时也是东半球与西半球之间联系的纽带。”
当代中国影像艺术家杨福东去年获邀指导Prada2010春夏男装广告短片。此次与Prada合作的短片名为“第一春”，来源于中国俗语“一年之计在于春”，展现了一部充满旧上海风情的黑白影画。短片场景设定在老上海街道，除了Jacob Coupe和 Adrien Sahores两位当红男模，中国影星耿乐也在中间出演角色。几位东方氛围十足的怀旧女郎和西洋男士们，为人们上演了一场“梦呓上海”的欢场大戏，令人有一种仿佛从梦境和记忆中走出来的迷蒙之美。此次，杨福东指导的短片一经推出，备受业内外人士好评，成为艺术联姻奢侈品的一次成功合作。
Swatch x 岳敏君
Titoni x 张琪凯
对于时间的关注应该是每个瑞士制表者所熟知的领域，Titoni品牌亦是如此。在欣赏过艺术家张琪凯的一系列熊猫题材的合作之后，Titoni品牌的CEO Daniel Schluep先生立即决定了下一个限量版手表的系列要和他合作。随后，以张琪凯的熊猫图案印于表盘的Titoni艺术家限量版手表系列顺利出炉，这也是该品牌和一系列国际艺术家合作设计限量版的开端。这次特别的合作，也体现出瑞士和中国两国之间的友好关系。据悉，由张琪凯参与合作的该款腕表，限量发售250枚。